Grain and Gluten Free Dog Food

Gluten & Grain Free Dog Food

If you are thinking to yourself “my dog is not gluten free so why should I use a gluten or grain free dog food?”

The answer is all dogs don’t need gluten or indeed grain in their diet, for many years it has been added to dog food for several reasons, gluten is a protein which is mainly found in wheat, so as wheat or grain in general is commercially very cheap it is used to bulk out dog feed, as it also contains protein the manufacturers can claim the protein content to make the food appear to be of good nutritional value, it also acts as a binding agent to help hold the stool together.

While all this may appear ok, the truth is gluten protein or protein from any other source of grain or rice has no nutritional value for your dog what so ever. The majority of dog foods available in the UK and indeed around the world predominantly contain either wheat gluten of other forms of grain and plant proteins which for the most have no nutritional value for your dog what so ever. Having an understanding that feeding your dog a food that contains wheat gluten or indeed any other grain/rice based protein may potentially lead to some form of ailment or intolerance in the future, they may already be suffering without your knowledge as the associated gluten and grain intolerance/allergic ailment list is an extremely long one and still growing.

It is important to feed your dog the best food you can afford as in the long run you potentially will save on vet bills and specialist diets as your dog gets older. For decades the pet food industry has been finding ways to produce dog food to maximise profit especially where meat is concerned. Given meat/fish is naturally the most important element to a dog’s food it is also having to compete with the human demand which has resulted most dog food containing only small amounts of meat with the rest being made up of inexpensive carbohydrates such as wheat, maize, barley, oats, rice and so on. In recent year’s ingredients such as wheat and maize are beginning to fall out of favour due to gluten allergies and intolerances associated with it so manufacturers are turning to other cheap and nutritionally inferior replacements such as barley, sorghum, rice and oats. While these inexpensive ingredients do actually play an important to your dog in the way of energy the proteins contained within them are continuing to create issues.  

Meat and fish in any form has risen in cost considerably over the past half century as the human population has grown so manufacturers have had to cut corners by increasing the low cost carbohydrates in the dogs food which traditionally was corn and wheat as it was the most available and cost effective food stuff but more recently other low cost carbohydrates such as rice, oats & barley are being used as both the manufacturers and public are slowly realizing that traditional carbohydrates such as Wheat and Maize are causing issues, but all these newer low cost carbohydrate sources are still allowing the manufacturers to produce low cost food with minimal nutritional value while declaring the protein levels achieved by the grains & rice as just “crude protein” which although is true, it is very misleading and makes a cheap food look better.

Dogs that have shown intolerances to Wheat Gluten may also show intolerances to other grain based ingredients and for majority of other dogs who currently don’t appear to have any issues it is only a matter of time before intolerances are linked to these more recent uses of low cost grains and rice’s. Unfortunately, the major manufacturers are trying to combat these intolerances by chemically altering these low cost carbohydrates (Hydrolysed) so the protein won’t cause as many issues, but this alone is not ethical, and will only lead to even bigger issues in the future as Hydrolysed proteins are currently controversial.

Dogs are naturally carnivores to understand this simply look at the teeth in your dog’s mouth and you will find only tearing and cutting teeth, they do not have the ability to chew grains and seeds. So naturally dogs wont and don’t eat wheat, they also don’t eat barley, oats and rice either. During the past decade or so it has become apparent that some dogs can no longer tolerate eating food with wheat or indeed any other form of grain in it, this problem will only increase as time goes by given that intolerances can be hereditary. By the time a dog is 10 years old it could quite possibly be the oldest of 5 generations of which all could inherit an intolerance of one form or another.

So moving on, all grass based ingredients such as wheat, corn, barley, oats and rice all have the higher potential for allergies and intolerances as they are quite simply not a natural food source and don’t contain any real nutritional benefit for your dog. Just because your dog is showing no sign of intolerance it does not mean it will continue to do so. An intolerance is not necessarily a visible ailment such as itchy skin or sores nor is it limited to digestion upsets, many people are realizing the effects of Wheat Gluten, Grains and Rice’s can cause behavioural issues and in some circumstances even aggression and it is only when the diet excludes Gluten and grains that it becomes apparent.

Gluten or Grain intolerance’s can also be a double edged sword especially when it causes hyper activity, in this instance not only is the dog over active but the food it eats does not contain adequate complete protein to maintain the muscle mass which will simply reduce as the body converts the muscle into energy and you end up with a very skinny dog that will never put weight on.

Just because a dog food claims to be gluten free it does not mean it is healthy, for example there are some manufacturers selling “Gluten free dog food” that contains no meat what so ever, and others simply replacing the wheat with Barley and Oats, these ingredients can never be classed as gluten free as they are collected by combine harvesters which unfortunately cannot tell the difference as wheat both natural and commercial tend to grow amongst them.

Gluten is only the tip of the iceberg as far as bad dog food ingredients is concerned and over the coming years many other bad ingredients will become evident as the dog population becomes even more sensitive. Simply excluding Wheat/Gluten from the diet of a dog that is known to be intolerant may not be the end of it as it is highly likely the dog will also show signs of intolerance to all the rest of the grain and rice family.

The Irish Setter is one breed that has been proved cannot tolerate gluten at all (Gluten Sensitivity Enteropathy) as this is an historical breed more research has been conducted, unfortunately many other breeds may already be intolerant but have not collectively carried out conclusive research.